Telling your story

How do you write an effective story. First you need to know your audience.

Once you know who you are addressing, you can decide how to communicate with them.

It was interesting to read some suggestions for storytelling from some “expert” story tellers. One comment referred to one-line comments. The storyteller explained that social change comes from compelling stories, so don’t be afraid to write a deep, meaningful story, something people can get lost in. The author was criticizing social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Although I agree that there is no substitute for a compelling story, I do believe in telling stories through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The story just comes in a different form.

I took this comment into my own context: I work to have others “buy-in” to my story. Whether I’m selling something or teaching something, I want you to know why it is relevant to them. I can use Twitter to tell stories and encourage others to buy into what I’m selling.

I recently applied and was interviewed for a job position for the Georgia Meth Project. During the interview, the employer asked me how I would engage high school kids when talking to them about meth. Since that time, I’ve done some thinking, in hopes that I do receive the job offer and have the opportunity to begin telling youth the story of meth.

Meth is a catastrophic problem. Meth users double from 2002 to 2004 from 63,000 to 130,000.

I came up with a great idea. Tell the story through Social Media. The Georgia Meth Project’s mission is to educate Georgia youth ages 14-19 with the truth about meth use. They do so through their media campaign and with direct community education, primarily within the schools. As I was brainstorming about ways to connect to my audience, it hit me: Twitter. Young people are obsessed with social media, even more than me. We want to surge the area with truth about meth, right? Why not involve the youth to do so. They are the ones that we are trying to reach, aren’t they? So as I speak to the group and open them up to the truth about meth, I engage them through social media. I ask them to tweet throughout the programming, facts or ah-ha moments they have about meth. this surge of information becomes real to an exponential number of people. They follow the GA Meth Project and I follow them. We create a world of educated young people that are telling the story of the horrors of meth. If I do this as I travel around the state, it becomes a movement. It even begins trending in areas. The story of meth becomes a reality- the truth about the horrors of it, not just the addiction to it.

Stories are told- sometimes they come in books or long articles. They do need to be sold to the audience, but they don’t have to be in the traditional form. In this new social media world, let’s use connection to tell stories.

Learning to blog

I’m not much of a blogger. I like quick info and contact between people and organizations- that’s why I tweet -@firestarteratl. But my experience over this semester of blogging is stretching me and I am enjoying it.

I have developed the most in the art of storytelling. I am learning to share information in a way that is intriguing – mixing professional and personal info in a way that interests people but doesn’t share too much of myself. I’ve learned how to use pictures and other art to express my story clearer. I still have a lot to learn but the exciting thing about this class is I am being guided through it.

I’ve been introduced to some great blogs.

Kivi Miller has provided some great advice for me through my process. She’s taught me to ask so what? and who cares?. Her articles guide me into how to frame my content to answer these questions to make my post relevant and easy to read.

One of my favorite blogs to keep me up-to-date with the nonprofit development is the Nonprofit Technology Network. They provide great research to help your organization keep up with the times

I’ve learned that blogging is an adventure and you have to just keep doing it. Even when you don’t know what to say, you have to keep listening and writing. It is not what I expected, because I am enjoying it. In the past, I have had a hard time finding the balance between saying too much and saying too little. Having guidance through this process has helped me to share the right amount to actually make my work interesting.

The best thing I’m learning is that although social media is AWESOME, it’s a tool- an awesome tool to share our stories- but it is not the answer to your nonprofits isolation and lack of communication and development. http://blog.rally.org/twitter-and-linkedin-and-facebook-oh-my-%E2%80%93-takeaways-from-social-media-for-nonprofits/

thanks!
Hannah

No more smoking for me

Isn’t it funny how we are so complex. I’m a development enthusiast. Whether it’s personal growth or the growth of a community, I get super pumped. That’s why the Atlanta BeltLine tickles my fancy, or why my favorite book is Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud. Yet, although life for me is defined by growth, I sure do like to “ungrow” sometimes. Why is it that we do things that are counter productive? Why do we run from what we want, or even more, what’s good for us? These idealist questions do have answers and I plan to answer them… in one short blog. Yes, I am that impressive :).

I believe we define our life by what we’ve been taught or what we’ve seen, mixed with part of who we were when we were born- our genetics, and largely our capacity to change and grow is very small. As individuals, we are fragile and brittle and we do not take well to the bend and stretch that growth requires. Why is it that we date the same guy over and over again or why do we raise our children like we were raised, even when we swore we wouldn’t? These questions are so repetitive, it’s ridiculous not to answer them.

So how do we change? No one wants to become super introspective, worrying about every choice and the motive behind it, but we do want to grow. We want to learn and there are things in our life, from time-to-time that we do want to change.

The answer is simple, yet very difficult. The answer is relationship. Whether it’s with God, or yourself, or with others, the answer is always relationship. We are made to be with each other. We live as families. We live in communities. We are not made to be isolated or independent and to grow we need each other. To learn we need each other.

But there’s more: We can’t just be with each other, living amongst our social norms, letting society guide us. No, we have to be transparent. Intimacy, or in-to-me-see, is allowing others to know who you are, and letting them be a part of that process. It’s hard. We like to be right, or perfect, but our flaws are actually what make us unique. What we define as flaws are the things that can make people love us the most. Those things that we do, that make us “ungrow” are the exact things we need each other for. If we come together, we can allow each others strengths and weaknesses to mold.

Well what does this have to do with social media and my amazing blog…

Social media can be a beautiful support of our need for each other. We can use these outlets to communicate with others, to share our lives with each other, and to stay in contact. People are afraid of losing privacy. I myself am terrified of the idea of people who I don’t trust and, frankly, don’t like, looking at my pictures or reading status updates. But this fear is drowned by the beauty of instant connection, of being able to contact someone you love and share your heart with them in the middle of your busy day. If it weren’t for those friends, I wouldn’t be growing and learning as much as I am. So I say… post it up, tweet, update, tagged, IM, or pin… but whatever you do… do it often and do it with others 🙂

xoxo
Hannah

Is email dead?

This week in class we discussed the use and necessity of email. It was interesting to learn that nonprofits sustain on email as the number one way to communicate with constituents. We can all understand why, it’s quick, media-savvy, and cost effective, but is this the most effective way to communicate with people.
Is email dead?
We’ve all had our frustrations with email use. Mine is when people don’t respond to my email: “I know you received it. I know you heard your phone go off. This is important!” Oh yes, and we can’t forget forwards! I realistically don’t have time to read the emails that have actual value let alone all the emails that apparently are going to be the deciding factor on my eternal destiny. “No, I will not forward this to ten people!”

As I was doing some online research on the topic, I came across some interesting perspectives. Atos Origin, an IT company, is working to irradiate internal email communication within 3 years! The CEO and Chairman, Thierry Breton, spoke out against data polluting the working environment. The saturation of information interferes with people’s ability to complete tasks.

Breton actually claims that the amount of emails we receive and manage in a day is “unsustainable for business”.

Breton isn’t the only one who’s trying to give email the ax. Experts are claiming that email is fading and won’t exist in ten years. But statistics show that because of mobile emailing, email use has increased 36% in 2010!!!

I say email isn’t dying. It may be evolving but it is definitely here to stay. The most important thing to me is to ensure that people stay in contact. Whether we are using email, Twitter, or the back-in-the-day phone call, let’s make sure and stay in contact, and spread the info!

😉
Hannah

There’s nothing like a BeltLine adventure

I decided to take some time to experience the BeltLine first hand. So many people are excited about the East Side Trail that’s underway and due to open up later this spring, I had to check it out myself. Although the trail isn’t open to the public yet because of construction, I got to do some sneaking around and it was AWESOME.

The trail runs through Inman Park and is convenient to great food and coffee spots. Streets like Auburn Avenue, Wiley Street, and Freedom Parkway are easily accessible. As I was walking down the corridor, the view of condos and the Atlanta skyline was unique and I loved it.

There was great art from last years Art on the BeltLine fundraiser.

The adventure was amazing. I got to see Old Fourth Ward Skate Park. I know it’s old news, but I didn’t know that Tony Hawk had been a part of the opening ceremony last summer.

I’m so looking forward to the official opening of the trail and the access and community it’s going to draw to the area.

Do you know who your donors are?

I venture to say that the most important part of a nonprofit is it’s people. The people that financially support the cause, the people involved with carrying out the mission, the people that are served through the organization’s work. People are the life blood of a nonprofit. People need to have the privilege to know about the missions that we give our life to. What’s keeping this flow of awareness? What’s keeping nonprofits largely in the dark? THE LACK OF PROPER DATA MANAGEMENT.

Volunteers
from Flickr vastateparkstaff

Yep I said it. DATA MANAGEMENT. I’m talking donors people and the databases we track them with.
I’ve seen it far too often, actually in every nonprofit I’ve came in contact with. Small organizations are working time-and-a-half to care for their clients and keep up with the day to day responsibilities. Far too often we are under staffed and over-goaled, trying to change the world one Social Worker at a time.
So here’s my stance. Stop putting out fires, they’re always going to be there, and take the time to maintain AWESOME donor contact.

Donors want to be involved. They want to be contacted and they need to know that their support is important. They need to know that they are needed to make this organization work whether it’s through in-kind and financial donations, volunteer support, or just sharing the news with others.

I did a little research. Although I still use it, Excel sucks! If you want to treat your supporters with the awesomeness they deserve, you’re gonna need to step it up. What happens if your supporters donate more than once, or have multiple mailing addresses. How do you keep up with how they prefer to be contacted and what their specific interests in your organization are? Not through Excel.

NTEN did an Awesome report, A Consumer’s Guide to Low Cost Data Management. On a side note, wow I sure am posting with personality ;)… but since so many of us don’t have time to read reports, we’ll let the blog do the work.

First understand your options:
Do you need a system to track donors or everyone, including volunteers and event attendees? Do you know you can choose from online or installed systems? Some systems let you do mailers directly; others require you to export the donor information. When choosing a system, you have options for reporting and creating queries. If this is important to you, make sure your system has the option. One thing that I find very important is ease of use and technical support. Your nonprofit needs to be able to learn to use the system easily and get help when needed.

So what did NTEN find to be the best system for the price? They couldn’t say. They said that out of the 33 systems they reviewed, they all had pros and made sense. The most important thing that your organization can do is find out what’s important to them and take the leap and start keeping up with one of the most important part of your organizations.

Although NTEN didn’t name one, If you’re looking for the basics, and your organization is small but growing a great option at a great price is Giftworks.

Let’s Do it!